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Japan Medicine Science

The High-Radiation Lives and Risks of Nuclear-Nomad Subcontractors 96

Posted by timothy
from the stop-that-incessant-ticking dept.
Harperdog writes "Gabrielle Hecht has an interesting piece on the subcontracted workers of the nuclear energy industry, in Japan and elsewhere. These workers face far more exposure to radiation than salaried workers; in Japan, 90% of the nuclear workforce is contracted. This is an eye-opening look at a practice that 'carries exceptional risks and implications. And until these are recognized and documented, complex social and physiological realities will continue to be hidden.' A good read, but I would like to know how the Fukushima 50 are doing."
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The High-Radiation Lives and Risks of Nuclear-Nomad Subcontractors

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  • If companies contract this work out, rather than have in house workers do it, they are much less responsible for the long term consequences. It simply makes good business sense. You can argue whether or not the contractors fully understand the risks that they are taking and the likely outcomes, but at the end of the day it's a free market system and if they are willing to put their lives and future on the line, then let them do it.
    • If the contractors aren't being made aware of their cumulative radiation exposure levels and possible risks, then NO. The "free market system" is not a reason to let people into hazardous environments without knowing wtf they're doing.

      If they know exactly what they're getting into, then it is hard to argue against letting them do it, but it still feels cheap.

      It reminds me of the Foxconn situation where workers were committing suicide just so that their families could get the insurance money. Only this time

      • by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash.p10link@net> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @10:03AM (#38817655) Homepage

        Ferom TFA it seems the workers themselves are deliberately cricumventing the exposure measurements so they can earn more money before they are laid off for hitting their raditation quota.

        • Philosophically it's their choice. We're not talking about abortion here, but the freedom to risk one's own life and only their own life. The problem is, they become a huge medical liability on the tax payer later in life from the effects of radiation exposure. And that's regardless if they signed a medical weaver forfeiting future healthcare or not. There's just no way to guarantee that radiation is directly responsibly for some or all of the health issues, and society will not necessarily give up on them

          • I liked the article soon after the disaster where the old guy said there were a group of old Japanese people willing to help out in the cleanup. His reasoning was that they were going to die relatively soon anyway (but still strong enough to be helpful), so the exposure wouldn't make be that big a deal. I thought that was a good idea, and kind of admirable.

        • by sjames (1099)

          Of course, that doesn't mean that they had any comprehension of the risks (in a world where the news names a different common thing that will supposedly kill you nightly, if it doesn't make you feel sick NOW, many will discount it as more fear mongering).

          Then there's their perception of options. For example, we can't REALLY say that people who jump 20 stories to their death in a building fire knew the risks and chose to do it so it's all OK. Instead, we lay blame for their deaths on whoever cut corners on t

        • From TFA it seems the workers themselves, driven by desperate financial circumstances, are deliberately circumventing the exposure measurements so they can earn more money before they are cast aside like a used up rubber after hitting their radiation quota.

        • by RockDoctor (15477)
          Well we wouldn't have predicted that, would we? It's not as if sub-contracted radiation workers haven't been circumventing their dosimeters for decades now. In fact, pretty much since the introduction of the dosimeter.

          It is an effective tool for alleviating corporate legal responsibility. Which means that it keeps on getting re-invented.

    • by Fluffeh (1273756)

      You can argue whether or not the contractors fully understand the risks that they are taking and the likely outcomes, but at the end of the day it's a free market system and if they are willing to put their lives and future on the line, then let them do it.

      Contractors understand the risks, they just pretend not to if things later don't work out to be the way they want. The contractors I have dealth with are either perfectly capable and wonderful to work with, or useless - and they pull every single excuse possible to prove how it is not their fault and how they were working exactly as they were supposed to.

      it is a free market, let them put their life on the line. If they are there to do the right thing, then their families will have honour for all eternity, i

    • And people wonder why capitalism is getting a bad rap, these days...
    • Radiation work in the US is regulated by the NRC, workers are required to wear a dosimeter that will be analyzed and a report given to the worker annually or however long the dosimeter can collect. All the workers I came in contact with were aware of the risks and the additive nature of the radiation. There is a hard limit that the NRC sets for exposure and once that limit is met the worker is not allowed to come in contact with radioactive materials. Here are the NRC rules pertaining to use of a dosimete
      • Yeah... I can pretty much confirm that. Though there are quite a few 'odd-balls' that are strange individuals, who have been doing it for years and don't think it'll hurt them (we've got a few of those where I work)... they all still have to comply to regulations. I think that's the government's CYA as far as things go with lawsuits. Someone has to do it, though.. unfortunately. I work for a department which cleans up after these guys clean up. We put remote monitors in and create reserves out of o
        • by sjames (1099)

          I'm stunned! A case where the U.S. policy towards workers is actually better than some other western nation's!

      • by Radworker (227548)

        A couple of things. 1 There are usually two dosimeters issued in the RCA. An electronic self reading dosimeter which is calibrated but not used for anything besides a rough total and a way to let the worker know "what they picked up" and a TLD(thermolumenescant dosimeter) which is used for the official record. The electronic dosimeter is read when you exit the RCA and the tld is read every few months. That exposure becomes part of the worker's permanent record (form IV) . The NRC has rules about exposur

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @09:26AM (#38817403)

    I was under the impression that in the U.S., at least, radiation dosage was tracked on a lifetime basis via a Nuclear Regulatory Commission database, REIRS, and anyone working at a nuclear facility, even on a contract basis, has to have the numbers from their dosage monitoring submitted to it. I don't think you can get away with laying them off and then someone else rehiring them while pretending they're a new person, because their dosage will get filed under the same social-security number in REIRS.

    • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @10:12AM (#38817725) Homepage

      The claim is that they falsify the numbers. Not the employer, not the plant, not the government. The worker.

      Why ? To make a few more quick bucks. Nuclear worker is one of the few highly paid relatively unskilled jobs available, because you get exposed.

      • The claim is that they falsify the numbers. Not the employer, not the plant, not the government. The worker.

        Falsify which numbers? Their SSN? Easily doable, I suppose.

        Or were you talking about their dose? Pretty much can't do that, since the dosimeters aren't read by the workers - you turn them in, they get read by a technician elsewhere, the numbers are entered in a database.

        Of course, they could just quietly leave their dosimeter outside the work area, but they'll get their asses fired very quickly i

        • The claim is that they falsify the numbers. Not the employer, not the plant, not the government. The worker.

          Falsify which numbers? Their SSN? Easily doable, I suppose.

          Or were you talking about their dose? Pretty much can't do that, since the dosimeters aren't read by the workers - you turn them in, they get read by a technician elsewhere, the numbers are entered in a database.

          Of course, they could just quietly leave their dosimeter outside the work area, but they'll get their asses fired very quickly if discovered. And someone will notice pretty quickly if John Doe consistently gets a lower dosage than the rest of the guys working where he does. And he'll get fired pretty quickly.

          Falsifying the SSN may be easy with other jobs but the background check for a nuclear facility is a bit more thorough, the only way this might be possible is if the employment application and NRC paper work are not cross checked.

      • You better believe there's some conniving going on. It shouldn't be so easy for workers to falsify information. If it is easier than it ought to be, as seems likely, that's almost certainly because the employer purposely make a hash of the monitoring system, and neglected to fix obvious flaws. Even just being too cheap to do any maintenance can provide plenty of opportunities to cheat as the system slowly breaks down. They wink at the employees after putting on a fine show of concern and safety. To mak
    • by Diamonddavej (851495) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @01:54PM (#38820057)

      The Japanese have a centralised dosimetry system developed by Chiyoda Technol Corporation, the GD-450 glass badge and FGD-650 reader/central computer server. It's used by the Japanese nuclear industry, hospitals, civilian background monitoring etc. For example, they handed out 230,000 glass badges to civilians last September, so the system can handle large numbers (ave. dose was 0.26 mSv over 3 months). Also, the badges contain an ID printed on the front and hidden inside, to prevent tampering. So it seems the Japanese do have a well organised centralised system to monitor worker doses.

      Also, the IAEA released a Fukushima Daiichi status report on 2 November 2011, it contains a table of worker exposures (table 3). The highest doses in September, involved 7 workers who got 20-50 mSv (the ave. dose of 1047 workers was 1.8 mSv). I can't imagine gypsy workers could get substantially higher doses and in much greater numbers (unless they all falsify their glass badges and swim in the spent fuel pools). So I seriously doubt the article's allegations.

      See: Fukushima Daiichi Status Report - 2 November 2011 - IAEA

    • The point is that when a salaried worker hits the hard limit for the year, he still get paid for the rest of the year, where the contractor hit the the limit his 3 month renewable contract just doesn't get picked up again. I knew a guy that worked in Nuclear Medicine and they wore 3 film badge dosimeters, a ring badge, a lapel badge and a belt badge, predictable the ring badge would be crazy high, the lapel badge would be moderate and the belt badge low; after a while they got suspicious and swapped the lap

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Having RFTA (yes, I know), I've discovered that the summary is quite misleading. The article claims that 90% of the Japanese nuclear workforce is sub-contractors. Timothy, "sub-contracted" and "contracted" don't mean the same thing.

  • Translation: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thegarbz (1787294) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @09:36AM (#38817473)

    Translation: Temporary contract workers do work that the plant workers won't do is riskier.

    Let's file that one in the "You don't say!" category. It's like that throughout the entire processing industry. Need to hot tap onto a gas pipeline? Get a contractor. Need to go in a vessel that has an inert atmosphere? Too dangerous, get a contractor.

    Industries are full of contracting companies who exist specifically to absorb high business risk and appear "disposable" to the plant. They are after all not the plant's employees. If they die it won't be "us" who has to pay compensation, it'll be "them".

    • It is the same as those IT people who contract in war zones, really. High risk = high pay but no benefits or protection from a company.
      • You have to keep in mind that it's not "high risk" but rather "perceived high risk". Less people die on the job in Iraq than in manhattan rush hour, with similar numbers of people moving about. (I don't know about this nuclear business though. High time we get a decent human-sized remote control force-feedback android operational. *sigh* if I had 10 million to spend on a startup ...)

        Sadly, high pay is also overrated. It's high given the qualifications, but we're talking 50k-75k unless you acquire a rank. Bu

        • High time we get a decent human-sized remote control force-feedback android operational. *sigh* if I had 10 million to spend on a startup ...

          You'd have roughly an infinitesimal fraction of the money spent to date on solving this yet unsolved problem.

          • I've actually got a degree in something similar, and while such attempts exist, they're either military (and we don't know jack shit about them, save that they have most likely not succeeded), startups or academics. As far as I know, only one of the startups got even a million, and they really got somewhere. While academics get "free" labour (as long as it's a tiny headcount), I'm not aware of any effort receiving even 500k. They do get old military robots (and thank God for that, because otherwise they'd b

            • Translation: You don't actually know as much as you think you do about the current state of robotics development, but because you "have a degree in something similar" you believe yourself to be something of an expert.
               
              Seriously, you think that a paltry $10 million is all that stands between us and something so widely desired and it's just nobody has bothered to do it? You're delusional.

        • I don't know about this nuclear business though.

          At least in the USA, the number of deaths from exposure to radiation is roughly four in the last 50 years. Those three Navy guys killed when they screwed up SL-1 maintenance, and one guy who died at a fuel rod manufacturing plant.

          Before that, of course, there were deaths in Los Alamos due to radiation exposure in several accidents post-WW2 and pre-1960. Half a dozen or so.

          Manhattan Project deaths are still classified, I think.

          So, ten or so in the last 65

          • by icebrain (944107)

            I don't know for sure, but I have a feeling those numbers are for deaths from acute radiation exposure--massive several-hunded rem doses that cause radiation sickness and death in a short time. It would be interesting (if impossible to find out) how many deaths were indirectly related (i.e., cancer caused b y cumulative exposure, etc).

            But as you said, it's still safer than going to the grocery store.

            • I don't know for sure, but I have a feeling those numbers are for deaths from acute radiation exposure--massive several-hunded rem doses that cause radiation sickness and death in a short time. It would be interesting (if impossible to find out) how many deaths were indirectly related (i.e., cancer caused b y cumulative exposure, etc).

              Three of them were definitely cancer or other long term effects of acute radiation exposure (they died within ten years of exposure, but not immediately). The remainder were

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          You have to keep in mind that it's not "high risk" but rather "perceived high risk". Less people die on the job in Iraq than in manhattan rush hour

          And yet, a friend who actually did IT work in Afghanistan told me about the frequent rocket attacks and people who were killed relatively close to where he was. One guy less than 100 feet away from him -- he said he got to the point that if he heard the sirens, he'd hit the deck even if he was in the latrine; shit washes off, dead doesn't.

          Not saying the risk is

          • by thegarbz (1787294)

            he said he got to the point that if he heard the sirens, he'd hit the deck even if he was in the latrine; shit washes off, dead doesn't.

            This is the problem when you look at fatality figures out of context. Work in a plant that processes HF acid. There are times when I've put on fully self contained space suits to do my job. Does the fact no one has died at my plant mean that my job is only "perceived" as high risk? Hell no.

            The difference is in the training, protective equipment and the expectation. Go replace all the military in Afghanistan with untrained chaotic idiots that normally are seen driving around our streets and watch the death r

    • Re:Translation: (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @09:44AM (#38817529)

      They're also often smaller companies, because that effectively caps potential liability (or more accurately, shifts it onto the government/population). If a huge company fucks up and causes a $50 billion mess, they might be on the hook for $50 billion, but if a smaller contractor does, they declare bankruptcy, their $500 million in assets get seized, and someone else is responsible for sorting out the remaining $49.5 billion of the mess. Hence all the Superfund sites and state-run compensation programs.

      • by Renraku (518261)

        This. It is a fundamental flaw in the way we do business here in the United States, and it should be fixed. I don't think you could fix it easily by just, say, making people that hire contractors responsible for the fuck ups of the contractors though. It would have to be something else, something with real teeth. Perhaps the owners of the company could be sentenced to the rest of their lives making a paltry wage and cleaning up their mess, paid for out of selling off the company's assets. When they run

      • Re:Translation: (Score:5, Informative)

        by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @12:18PM (#38818991)

        If a huge company fucks up and causes a $50 billion mess, they might be on the hook for $50 billion, but if a smaller contractor does, they declare bankruptcy, their $500 million in assets get seized, and someone else is responsible for sorting out the remaining $49.5 billion of the mess.

        No. At least not in Louisiana.

        Don't know about elsewhere, but down here, your employer is liable for anything that happens at his plant that is work-related. So a contractor (employed by a small company) doing work on one of Entergy's nuclear reactors ten miles south-west of here screws up, causes massive meltdown and total loss of New Orleans makes ENTERGY liable (their plant, their (indirect) employee) for billions and billions.

        • by Trepidity (597)

          My understanding is that if a contractor performs work according to spec and something bad happens, the company contracting with them is liable, but if they're negligent in performing the work, then they themselves are liable, and the company that contracted them isn't. Hence some of the lawsuits over the gulf oil spill; if it turns out that the contractors who cemented the well (such as Halliburton, in this case definitely not a small one) did so negligently, then the contractors who did the cementing, not

    • by dintech (998802)

      Translation: Temporary contract workers do work that the plant workers won't do is riskier.

      Using the same translator as Zero Wing [wikipedia.org]? :)

    • Let's file that one in the "You don't say!" category. It's like that throughout the entire processing industry. Need to hot tap onto a gas pipeline? Get a contractor. Need to go in a vessel that has an inert atmosphere? Too dangerous, get a contractor.

      Once upon a time, on a tour of New Orleans shortly after I moved down here, the tour guide told us that that practice goes back a very long way. Back in the 18th and 19th century, there were jobs that were considered too hazardous for slaves. So they brought

      • by treeves (963993)

        Interesting. Was it because the slaves were considered more valuable, or because they were considered less intelligent/competent/skilled?

        • by St.Creed (853824)

          Slaves were a big up-front expense. If they dropped dead after 3 days you had a loss. Irishmen were paid per day. If they drop dead after 3 days, you get a new one.

    • by jtara (133429)

      It might or might not be riskier. But that has nothing to do with the reason plant workers don't do the work. Once you are "maxed-out" for a period, you can't be in an exposure environment for the rest of the period. That means they have to stick you in a desk job until the next period. There are only so many desk jobs that plant workers can do. They would have to hire a bunch more people and have them play Uno most of the time.

      Instead, they hire contractors and pay a premium rate. The contractors do other

  • 50, my guess (Score:2, Informative)

    by hcs_$reboot (1536101)

    I would like to know how the Fukushima 50 are doing

    Fukushima 15 are (still) living a happy life with their family
    Fukushima 25 are (still) living, at the hospital

    • by chthon (580889)
      Still 10 to account for, then?
      • by oobayly (1056050) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @10:02AM (#38817653)

        From this we can determine that the half life of the Fukushima 50 is 994 days

        • *ahem*

          A total of 11,500 people have been confirmed dead since the quake on March 11. Another 16,400 are still missing and hundreds of thousands more are living in evacuation centres.

          (source: wikipedia)

          Unless the laws of physics have changed since I last checked ... none of them will even die of cancer at age 120. Chances are something like 1 in 1000.

          How big where the doses of those 7 special cases ?

          Over 20 workers had been injured by 18 March.[1] 3 workers were exposed and 2 were rushed to hospital having up to 180 mSv, which is less than the maximum 250 mSv that the government is allowing for workers at the plant.[11] Both workers, one in his twenties and one in his thirties, were from Kandenko and were regular workers at Fukushima II nuclear power plant.[9] Another worker was from a contract company of Kandenko.[52]

          Presumably at the hospital large doses of iodine would have been immediately administered, followed by prolonged hot showers and fresh clothes, further massively reducing the risk (the risk of carrying radioactive particles along on your skin or clothes or in your stomach, resulting i

    • I'm no expert, but the explanation I've seen about the health effects of radiation, would indicate the parent can't be right about people being in the hospital. . .

      The way I've heard it explained is that there's basically four categories of effects you can get from radiation, based on dosage:

      * High or Very high levels - severe radiation poisoning, die within hours or days, maybe a few weeks if you're unlucky - so wouldn't still be in the hospital.

      * Moderate levels - something very similar to sunburn, might

      • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @11:24AM (#38818321) Homepage

        * High or Very high levels - severe radiation poisoning, die within hours or days, maybe a few weeks if you're unlucky - so wouldn't still be in the hospital.

        * Moderate levels - something very similar to sunburn, might be in hospital for a short time for treatment, have increased risk of cancer developing, but that will take 5 - 25 years. People in this category would have been out of the hospital in maybe April or May of last year.

        Well, the truth is we don't know much about these ranges. The vast majority of the cases of whole body exposure are either survivors of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, or are among the early clean up workers at Chernobyl. I.E. amounts and types of exposure are for the most part poorly documented, as are subsequent care and outcomes. On top of that, it's a fairly small number as such things go, so it's hard to say clearly where the bottom of the 'Moderate' category is. There's just not enough data.
         
        And I haven't adressed the difference between whole body dosages and point dosages like the women exposed to Radium while painting watch dials. Or hospital workers exposed to ongoing low dosages of X-rays over extended periods...
         
        Making the problem even more difficult is the fact that the media (and Wikipedia, and Slashdot commentary) seem to treat all radiation more or less the same - when nothing could be further from the truth. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, neutron, X-ray... all ionizing radiation, all with subtly different effects. The same goes for length of exposure, whole body doses received over short periods are going to be different than those received over long periods, even if the absolute exposure is the same.
         
        All we really know is Exposure Is Bad, and try to avoid these levels.
         

        * Low levels - No immediate health effects. Increased risk of cancer in 5 - 25 years.

        * Very low levels - No health effects, essentially no increased risk of cancer (maybe something like .01 percent increased risk, but so close to zero as to be effectively zero increase in risk of cancer).

        Here, we see the same problems as above - you're acting as if there are clear bright lines between the categories. There isn't. Most importantly, the boundary between (your) Low and Very Low levels is fuzzy and poorly understood.

        • All your points are correct.

          That said, you didn't actually contradict GP. Whose main point was that there's not much reason to still be in hospital this long after a radiation exposure - by now you're either dead or fine (for certain values of fine) until you contract cancer. Or get run over by a beer truck.

          • That said, you didn't actually contradict GP. Whose main point was that there's not much reason to still be in hospital this long after a radiation exposure

            Umm... No.

            Like the OP you seem to suffer from the mistaken belief that clear bright lines exist, which means you missed my point entirely. You fail to realize that not only do such clear bright lines not exist, there is not sufficient data to make such categorical statements as "there is no reason to still be in a hospital".

            Only a fairl

        • by JSBiff (87824)

          But what you have failed to give is any indication that anyone has ever suffered any medium-term (one month to 1 year) hospitalization due to radiation exposure.

          I would say my position is stronger than yours, as I am making an appeal from what is known (even if what is known is limited), as opposed to an appeal to ignorance: "We don't absolutely know that's correct, so let's assume the worst".

          Until you can show that people actually do get medium-term lingering health problems from radiation exposure, the mo

        • by marbux (761605)

          " Very low levels - No health effects, essentially no increased risk of cancer (maybe something like .01 percent increased risk, but so close to zero as to be effectively zero increase in risk of cancer)."

          Sorry, but you've been suckered by a purveyor of disinformation. They claim that low dose "risks" of radiation and other toxins can be scientifically determined. But the state of the art of cancer risk assessment has not changed in relevant regard since the seminal pronouncement in 1979:

          "The self-repli

          • by JSBiff (87824)

            See, the thing is, if low dose radiation posed any significant threat, we'd *know about it*. The only reason we can't give a definitive answer about the health effects of low dose rad is that it's *so small* it's hard to pick out from the noise. If it were substantial, we'd surely know about it, because it would be easy to see.

      • Or you could, you know, just look on wikipedia...
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_50#Radiation [wikipedia.org]

        Which indicates that between 250-3000mSv can cause varying symptoms (bone marrow damage, loss of appetite, etc_, with recovery likely even up to 3000mSv. One part of the article claims that only 7 workers received doses over 100mSv. Another part claims that 3 workers received over 180mSv, and that 2 of those went to the hospital.

        So in all, we're talking about maybe two of the workers who received slightly

  • "Nuclear Ginza" (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sparkles010 (2029794) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @09:53AM (#38817597)
    The BBC produced an excellent and troubling documentary about Japan's “contracted” labour within the nuclear industry. It also covers exposure to radiation in general in across the workforce. Search for "Nuclear Ginza"
  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @10:24AM (#38817805)
    they're taking advantage of the poor and uneducated people. This isn't a complex situation. Nobody cares. They're disposable.
    • These are trained and skills construction tradespeople. I was a scheduler at nuke plant, the contract workers made $50 to $120 an hour. Why, you ask? ask yourself, for example, what kind of "pipefitter" works with 16" diameter stainless pipe, in a rad area. A very well trained expensive one, that's who.

      • by icebrain (944107)

        These are trained and skills construction tradespeople. I was a scheduler at nuke plant, the contract workers made $50 to $120 an hour. Why, you ask? ask yourself, for example, what kind of "pipefitter" works with 16" diameter stainless pipe, in a rad area. A very well trained expensive one, that's who.

        Yep. My wife does payroll for a company that does work on reactors. Those guys make very good money; hourly rates of $30+, plus per diem and time-and-a-half/double-time as appropriate. The "poor, uneducated" workers GP was referring to easily make twice as much or more than I make as an experienced engineer.

  • A nuclear story mdsolar did not submit. At least it will put nuclear power in a positive light. We all know it needs that now since the SOTU did not even mention nuclear.....
  • Günter Wallraff, a investigative journalist, uncovered turkish laborers were 'used' for a similar purpose in German nuclear plants in the 80ies:

    Disguised as Ali, Wallraff took on jobs as laborer in construction firms, on farms, janitorial service, and even as a day laborer in a nuclear power plant. In the publication of his 2-year adventure as Turk in Germany, LOWEST OF THE LOW, Guenther Walraff later revealed that the Turkish workers at the power plant were not even provided the same amount of protect

  • I was in the nuclear field in the Navy many years ago, and if one of us (highly trained, expensively trained, hard to hire otherwise, etc) received too much exposure, we became normal enlisted men, of no use to the nuclear area. So when any task with high radiation exposure, 'normals' were assigned. The assumption was that these men would never get this expose again. Really, there is no other way.
  • by iggymanz (596061) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @11:49AM (#38818621)

    In the USA, In the 8 months or so prior to a refueling outage, through the first couple weeks of an outage, a huge amount of "construction" work is undertaken at a plant involving maintenance, inspections and repairs. A plant that has a couple hundred full time employees will bring on hundreds of contractors, sometimes a thousand or so total. These contractors make their very good living going from plant to plant for pre-outage and outage work. They make way more money than the average IT worker, I can tell you 7-10 years ago it was $50 to $120 an hour, and during the actual outage there would be 10 or 12 hour days for the first couple weeks, that's time and a half and usually gets to double time overtime per week. Those skilled tradesmen made serious coin. The plant issues dose meters and film badges and monitors the rad exposure of all workers, and *already knows* the dose for each area and type of work, there is no faking of exposure nor even possibility of doing so. The federal NRC has an office on site to oversee work, dose, compliance.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Skilled trades doing outage work can make serious bank!

      Fortunately the trades are despised by the US education system so the shortage of tradespeople (women can weld boilers and pipe too!) keeps wages high.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Quote from Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, U.S. Navy, (27 January 1900 – 8 July 1986) was known as the "Father of the Nuclear Navy".

    I'll be philosophical. Until about two billion years ago, it was impossible to have any life on earth; that is, there was so much radiation on earth you couldn't have any life — fish or anything. Gradually, about two billion years ago, the amount of radiation on this planet—and probably in the entire system—reduced and made it possible for some form of life t

    • by fnj (64210)

      Verifiable reference or it's not a quote.

  • by Diamonddavej (851495) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @01:29PM (#38819767)

    The IAEA Status Report 2 November 2011 contains a table of worker exposures. In March 2011, 98 workers (out of 3742) received more than 100 mSv. But that was related to the initial disaster. By September 2011, 7 workers received between 20-50 mSv, the other 1039 workers received far less. The average dose to workers in September was only 1.80 mSv (people in Denver get 12 mSv a year).

    Even if there are "hidden" unmeasured gypsy workers, their doses could not be highly in excess of permanent salaried workers, unless they go swimming the spent fuel pools. The radiation levels at Fukushima Daiichi is now far lower then it was in March, so it's very hard to accumulate high doses unless you enter the reactor buildings. It's likely those few who enter the reactors are the trained staff conducting surveys and they well monitored.

    The Japanese introduced the GD-450 (glass badge) radiation dosimeter about 10 years ago, it's manufactured by Chiyoda Technol Corporation and is used throughout Japan's nuclear industry and hospitals etc. Dosimetry measurements are, from what I read, uploaded to a central computer (FGD-650 reader and server computer system). The badges contain the users ID printed on two stickers, one on the front and another on metal frame hidden inside the badge, presumably to prevent tampering.

    They handed out 230,000 glass badges to civilians in Fukushima Provence last September, so clearly the centralised system can handle large numbers. For example, 36,767 glass badges handed out in Fukushima City revealed an average dose of 0.26 mSv over 3 months. I'm pretty sure this survey is run by the Japanese Ministry of Health, it would be easy to share the worker data if it's not already.

    Refs:
    The Large Scale Personal Monitoring Service Using The Latest Personal Monitor GLASS BADGE Norimichi Juto
    IAEA Fukushima Daiichi Status Report 2 November 2011 (see table 3).

Little known fact about Middle Earth: The Hobbits had a very sophisticated computer network! It was a Tolkien Ring...

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